11 October 2017
Jonah was very indignant; he fell into a rage. He prayed to the Lord and said, ‘Ah, Lord, is not this just as I said would happen when I was still at home? That was why I went and fled to Tarshish: I knew that you were a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in graciousness, relenting from evil. So now, Lord, please take away my life, for I might as well be dead as go on living.’ The Lord replied, ‘Are you right to be angry?’
Jonah then went out of the city and sat down to the east of the city. There he made himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, to see what would happen to the city. Then the Lord God arranged that a castor-oil plant should grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head and soothe his ill-humour; Jonah was delighted with the castor-oil plant. But at dawn the next day, God arranged that a worm should attack the castor-oil plant – and it withered.
Next, when the sun rose, God arranged that there should be a scorching east wind; the sun beat down so hard on Jonah’s head that he was overcome and begged for death, saying, ‘I might as well be dead as go on living.’ God said to Jonah, ‘Are you right to be angry about the castor-oil plant?’ He replied, ‘I have every right to be angry, to the point of death.’ The Lord replied, ‘You are only upset about a castor-oil plant which cost you no labour, which you did not make grow, which sprouted in a night and has perished in a night. And am I not to feel sorry for Nineveh, the great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, to say nothing of all the animals?’
Once Jesus was in a certain place praying, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘Say this when you pray:
“Father, may your name be held holy, your kingdom come; give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive each one who is in debt to us. And do not put us to the test.”’
“Have you reason to be angry?”
Today’s reading in Jonah is about forgiveness. Specifically, how to find it within ourselves to forgive someone who has wronged us, when all we want is for justice to be served. Jonah’s predicament was that he preached a future of hail and hellfire. And though he was calling for repentance, there was a part of Jonah who secretly wanted to see the Assyrians meet their sorry end. As we know, that never happened because the city of Nineveh turned from its wicked ways and thus, its people were spared the wrath of God. So the only ‘loser’ in this equation, if you can call it that, was Jonah.
Our sense of justice and morality almost demands that God mete out justice to those who have wronged us. When we see them flourishing instead, we suffer from a ‘You’ve got to be joking!’ moment. Like Jonah, we sputter with indignation, puff our cheeks with disbelief, shake our heads with incredulity. Why are the bad guys allowed to win, we lament? It’s so unfair!
The comforting thing about all this is that God understands our frustation and tries to come down to our level to explain it to us – “should I not be concerned over Nineveh, the great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons, who cannot distinguish their right hand from their left”. Or more plainly put, “Should I not be concerned with people who I have made in my likeness, who are still such fledglings that they can’t tell wrong from right?” He implores us to be better men (and women), to rise to the occasion and to find within us the compassion to put aside our indignation and forgive those who have wronged us. Forgiveness can be a bitter pill to swallow yet that’s the way that God has chosen to move forward. So who are we to insist on having justice served our way when we too are in need of His forgiveness?
(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for a heart of self awareness and love, that sees beyond our puny demands and perceives God’s bigger picture.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the wisdom of the Holy Spirit that guides us to make good decisions, even when it doesn’t feel good to make them.